Supercollider out for months

The world's largest atom smasher, launched with great fanfare Sept. 10, has been damaged twice and will be out of commission for at least two months, its operators said Saturday.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said Saturday that a large amount of helium had leaked into the 17-mile circular tunnel deep under the Swiss-French border that houses the Large Hadron Collider.

The massive collider had to be shut down only 36 hours after it began operating due to a failure of an electrical transformer. That was repaired, but a CERN statement said a second failure took place midday Friday in the last section of the tunnel to undergo testing at high current, causing the large helium leak.

CERN spokesman James Gillies said the latest incident was several miles from the earlier damage. It is considered much more time-consuming to repair than the first malfunction.

“Preliminary investigations indicate that the most likely cause of the (Friday) problem was a faulty electrical connection between two magnets, which probably melted at high current leading to mechanical failure,” said the statement Saturday. Associated Press